the Core

<p>Hi everyone,</p>

<p>I was wondering if there are any current Columbia students who read the boards who could tell me what they think about the Core curriculum. Is it stimulating? A waste of time? A little of both? Is it worth giving up New York for a more free curriculum somewhere else (brown)? It'd be interesting to hear your thoughts, especially how worthwhile you think it would be for a science major.</p>


<p>This is my take on the Core:</p>

<p>I am a prospective law school student, but I don't really want to major in something like history or political science because I think their scope is quite narrow. If I were to go someplace else, I'd almost have to major in one of those because it's the only way I can develop enough writing and reading skills to succeed in applying and doing well in law school. By going to Columbia, however, I can choose to major in psychology and not have to worry about losing out on my dosage of reading and writing because I know I'd be taking the core. Literature Humanities, Contemporary Civilization, Major Cultures, and University Writing will help make up for some of the reading/writing that I am missing out on when I choose to major in psychology.</p>

<p>Literature Humanities is an insane amount of reading, and those who are taking University Writing say that it is an insane amount of writing. But I like my lit hum class, the discussions are very intelligent and I am learning so much about the nuances of literature. </p>

<p>I am not a big fan of the swim test requirement though.</p>

<p>My major was neuroscience. Without the core, I would never have read plato or homer or cicero or thucydides. It was a great experience. My music Hum class was a bit lacking - but that was mostly due to bad luck with a professor. Most have a great experience in that as well. Overall it is absolutely worth it in my POV. And yes, as nerdy as it sounds, I did have random discussions in my reshall on plato vs. aristotle during the commercials between watching the yankees kill the sox etc etc...they were quite enjoyable actually. In summary, the core is a blessing, take advantage of it while you can. Particularly if you are pre-med/pre-law</p>

<p>I'm the parent of a current student and I think you are very smart to ask this question before deciding where to apply.</p>

<p>My son is enjoying LitHum but there is no doubt the core will make up a large part of his courseload over four years, and if you add a science major (he's potentially a physics major) which has heavy requirements as well, there is definitely less flexibility in electives. On the other hand, there is some flexibility within the core and the core classes include a heavy dose of literature and, especially, philosophy, that he probably would have sought out anyway. Here are some of the pros and cons, based on what he's told me:</p>

<pre><code> While Brown (which is at the other extreme) offers one approach to students who don't know what they eventually want to major in, Columbia also makes sense for this same reason. The core exposes students to many different subjects. (I'm not sure you even have to major at Columbia -- there are concentrations which require less -- but you should check this out.)

What attracted our son was the idea of everybody reading the same books. It's definitely a bonding experience. He's also enjoyed most of those books so far. You can look at the reading lists on the Columbia site and see whether you think you'd enjoy them, too.

Because core classes are capped, he has a LitHum class that is about 22 students. It's taught as the core is meant to be taught, as a discussion class. His particular instructor seems to go out of her way to meet with and get to know the students, and has even taken them to see a play in the city. She wrote very thoughtful comments and questions on his first paper. That said, you don't get to pick the professor and not everyone lucks out. (I think you can change at the semester if you plead a scheduling conflict, but otherwise you are in the same section all year.) But there is an attempt to make sure the core is well taught. For example, when I went to parents weekend, I attended a sample class given for parents about "Pride and Prejudice." The professor, a Jane Austen specialist, said she was giving us the lecture she would be giving LitHum INSTRUCTORS, who apparently attend weekly lectures on the works that they are assigning students. This is because the instructors come from many different fields. Anyway, the core guarantees some small classes right away.

There is a real sense of history and legacy involved with the core at Columbia. Alumni hand the new students copies of the Illiad, symbolic of the passing of this tradition down. But this also means the reading list changes little and some students find it too Eurocentric.

The tradeoff of the freedom to choose more courses elsewhere, in our son's mind, was his conviction that it's pretty much impossible to come out of Columbia without an excellent liberal arts education, no matter what your major. He wanted courses like MusicHum and ArtHum precisely because he knew he'd never take classes like that on his own, but felt those were really good things to do. He also liked the way those classes make use of New York City, with all it has to offer in music and art. (I hear students do manage to get some choice of professors in this part of the core, by signing up repeatedly over four years, then dropping the class that semester if they don't get assigned someone they like.)

The core seems to attract students to Columbia who do like ideas. Because of it the university (like Brown) has less of a pre-professional feel than some of the other top colleges strong in sciences.

By the way, all the other top students at my son's high school chose Brown. He's the only one at Columbia. So, there is definitely something to be said for either path.
Hope this helps. Good Luck!

<p>Thank you all for your responses! I'm visiting both this weekend, so hopefully I'll get a better feel for them.</p>

<p>to ivyman1:</p>

<p>I'm also considering neuroscience. What do you think of Columbia's program? I noticed it was interdepartmental. That's the other thing that attracts me to Brown--they have departments for cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, and neuroscience, a full spectrum from mostly psychology based to mostly biology based. Is there any flexibility in the neuroscience program at Columbia? Are there options for students who would rather focus on behavior than biology?</p>

<p>The separation of departments has more to do with the organization of the university than anything else. Its not particularly apparent when you are actually studying the field. The psych and bio depts constantly work seamlessly together, and the neuro professors sit in both. There is definately room for flexibility. Neuroscience itself is very bio-centric in my opinion, and our psychology department is a hard science department focused largely on research. If you want to focus more on the behavior end there are plenty of behavior and psychology based courses within psych, the only bio courses you must take are m&c bio, m&c neurobio, systems neurobio, an elective bio course and a lab for the neuro major. The rest can be psych if you like, which has a great deal of course offerings in the cognitive psych area (behavior). Or you can major in cognitive psych. Columbia's neuro program is actually probably the best in the country for undergrads just because of its scope (one of maybe 8 schools in the US that offers a comprehensive two semesters of neurobioogy for its undergrads for instance). And when you've got three Columbia neuroscientists/professors winning a nobel prize in the field -(one in 2000 and two just this year) - you know you've got it good...
Oh and the opportunities for UG research are boundless, especially within the psych dept.</p>

<p>I thought it would be nice to revive this thread, since people new people are asking about the Core.</p>

<p>I think the core curriculum is great for me because throughout my life, I've been a math science beast, I never got a chance to learn about the humanities so thru the core, I'll learn it lol</p>

<p>math science beast HAHA</p>

<p>but what about the opposite? I'm a comparative lit major, and i am not a brainiac in maths and sciences, particularly math. Is the core as beneficial to english-type majors?</p>

<p>i think they just involved a new part of the core (or maybe it has been there the whole time? feel free to correct me) called the frontiers of science which is for all the english/humanities type people, i guess it's like the math/science-ish part of core.</p>

<p>yes, it further developes your strong points. humanities people, obviously, like the core because the core is very much humanities-based.</p>

<p>bananaman, i have a friend at brown who just took neuroscience and loved it. oh, and i'm in the same position as you.</p>

<p>"bananaman"? lol, are you talking to me? I chose Brown, btw... accepted :)</p>


<p>when people speak of the lit hum class, it's always something about "an insane amount of reading"</p>

<p>an insane amount of reading can mean a different things to different people - define "insane"</p>

<p>go on the columbia website they have a doesn't sound too insane to a book a week?</p>

<p>do u have a link to the syllabus because I couldn't find it?</p>

<p>yea i saw that - definitely doesn't seem to live up to the "insane" hype, especially if your teachers opt to use the "choice" periods as review weeks rather than reading alternate works</p>

<p>but then again, with the work from your other courses on top of that, it could provide for some heavy lifting</p>